BANGKOK — Angry protesters, convinced that an election was rigged, violently stormed and occupied the government’s seat of power, egged on by a firebrand populist – wait, are we talking about the US or Thailand?
For the Thais watching the news that unfolded across the ocean, the unprecedented attack on the Capitol by a mob loyal to President Donald Trump reminds them of past political tumult in their own country – especially the 2008 and 2014 protests that sought to overthrow the elected governments.
The news is covered extensively by Thailand’s leading media. Throughout the morning, the Thai social media is also awashed with memes, jokes, and comments comparing the pro-Trump insurrection in DC to similar tactics employed by Thailand’s pro-establishment faction that paved way for Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha’s coup in 2014.
For example, satirical artist Kai Maew drew a cartoon of Donald Trump copying school work from Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the People Democratic Reform Committee, or PDRC, who organized the protests in 2013.
“Underground Karaoke” meme page posted several jokes of PDRC and Trump protesters occupying Government House and Capitol, side by side.
Another meme features lyrics of a PDRC protest song over an image of Trump’s head photoshopped onto Suthep’s body, with the Thai flags changed to the Stars and Stripes.
“Today’s scenes of the protest at the Capitol in America today, reminds me of the PDRC mob shutting down Bangkok six years ago,” wrote CSI LA, an investigative Facebook page that helped expose Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan’s ultra luxury watch collection in 2018.
Former President George W. Bush himself probably would have agreed with the sentiment; he said that what unfolded in the Capitol was “how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic.”
However, an opposition MP said the similarity is a vague one, since the faith of Americans in their democracy system is unshakable, unlike in Thailand.
“In a democratic society, dissatisfaction with the results of an election is normal,” Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn said by phone. “But I believe that the majority of the citizens in the U.S. still respect the rule of law and elections. Most people still support the right thing.”
He continued, “I also believe the U.S. government won’t bring out military weapons to be used against protesters.”
Land of the Free?
The chaos at the U.S. capital inevitably came in handy for Thai pro-establishment figures to deride the United States, the country which many Thais regard as a role model for a democratic society.
Sermsuk Kasitipradit, a former editor of The Nation newspaper who maintains a large online following, shared news of the protest from BBC with a sarcastic caption.
“Democracy from Trump supporters – in the land of the free,” Sermsuk wrote.
Supporters of the movement that helped bring down the elected government in the 2014 coup also reacted to the news with glee.
Some of them compared the violence at the Hill, in which at least four people died, to the skirmishes in front of the Thai parliament on Nov. 17, when Thai police deployed water cannons and tear gas against pro-democracy demonstrators.
“Only water was used in our country and they were so alarmed about the use of force,” user Darin Karn wrote in the PDRC Hot News Update group in the caption of photos showing U.S. officers aiming guns at protesters inside the Capitol.
“But they fired shots at those who breached the Capitol. Look! Those who are obsessed with democracy, why don’t you come out to call for justice?”
Thailand’s Foreign ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat expressed concerns in an online statement, though he made no explicit mention of Trump like many world leaders.
“I’m saddened by the violence and the fatality that took place on the Capitol Hill today,” Tanee tweeted. “I expect that law and order will prevail and the democratic transfer of power will proceed as expected. Thais stand with Americans in these unprecedented times.”
Senior government officials, including PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, have yet to react to the violence in Washington DC.
Top: Thairath reports on the storming of the U.S. Capitol with the caption, “The world is in shock; Pro-Trump protesters refuse to accept election results.”